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What happens to the 'championship' apparel for the team that loses the national title game?

It’s not just a meme.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Features Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the moments after Deshaun Watson found Hunter Renfrow for the winning touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, Clemson wideout Sean Mac Lain paces the sidelines with one thing on his mind. “I just want a hat,” he says over and over again. But the game had yet to officially end.

When it did, here’s how the hat and t-shirt combo looked.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are multiple apparel companies licensed to provide branded gear for both teams for the title game. Nike is the official podium apparel provider, however. SB Nation reached out to Nike, which is in its third year of being the official shirt and hat provider on the field after the CFP title game.

The company says around 300 shirts and hats are made to be distributed on the field for each team. And even if a team has their jerseys made by adidas or Under Armour (which no Playoff team so far has) in the event that confetti rains down on a non-Nike school, they’d still be given Nike podium apparel.

But what happens to the losers’ stuff?

On the other side of the stadium, there are hats that will never be worn and apparel that will never see the light of day, at least for Alabama fans. And there were designs mocked up for all four Playoff entrants. According to Chris Creamer of, here are the shirt designs for the other three Playoff teams.

ESPN did a story on what happened to the 2008 New England Patriots’ 19-0 apparel. It led viewers all the way to Nicaragua.

But sometimes, things slip through the cracks like they did in 2003.

According to Nike, the CFP and CLC (who licenses apparel for most college teams) “have donated the promo product for the non-winning team to various charities overseas” in the last three years.

Blue 84 is a licensing and apparel company which produces college champions gear (albeit not for the podium). They sell directly to vendors and retailers. In a statement to SB Nation, a Blue 84 spokesperson said that once the game is over, the losing team’s stuff has to disappear.

Blue 84 does offer what we call a “pre print” to concessionaires and retailers. This is a program that allows customers to buy both sides of a national champions program before the game.

Blue 84 charges regular wholesale cost for the winning team and invoices at half the cost for the losers. The loser shirts are all picked up and returned to our offices and yes we often ship these to missions in third world countries.

Customers can show both shirts on the “walk in” before the game but must not sell or show losers shirts after the game is complete.

Major League Baseball apparel licensor VF Licensed Sports Group had in its contract with retailers a clause to regiment what happens in this case. If a vendor wanted gear early, they had to contact World Vision within 24 hours of a particular team losing a postseason series to start the donation process.

"Our goal is to protect teams by preventing product from getting into the general marketplace that was produced in preparation for an event that could, but ultimately did not, happen," MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said in an email.

But what about the viral photos online of Alabama stuff this season?

There’s an important distinction between these shirts and the official shirts signifying a team as the actual national champions. SB Nation spoke to a vendor named John Lilliard outside of the stadium in the days leading up to the game, who said it comes down to three letters.

“The way that it works is, the NCAA, you're gonna see shirts that say championship in general,” he said. “Champions don’t get a championship shirt, they get a champions shirt. A lot of people say, look, there’s a Clemson, they didn’t win the championship. You gotta explain it to ‘em, it’ll say champions.”

So no harm, no foul there, those are just shirts that in essence commemorate the Crimson Tide’s trip to Tampa. They say nothing about winning the whole thing.